Baby Azaria killed by a dingo
"THE truth is out."
With those words Michael Chamberlain summed up the feelings of his family after a coroner found baby Azaria Chamberlain was killed by a dingo at Uluru in August, 1980.
Coroner Elizabeth Morris's decision brought to an end 32 years of anger and frustration for the Chamberlains - Michael, his former wife Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton and their children.
"The cause of her death was as the result of being attacked and taken by a dingo," Ms Morris said in handing down her findings.
She said evidence of 11 dingo attacks since 1995 - evidence not heard at any of the previous three coronial inquests into Azaria's death - had helped her arrived at the decision.
The historic finding means Azaria's death certificate will now indicate she died from a dingo attack. Prior to Tuesday's decision her cause of death had been listed as "unknown".
Ms Morris was almost brought to tears as she spoke directly to Azaria's parents and siblings after reading out her findings to a packed Darwin Magistrates Court.
"Please accept my sincere sympathy on the death of your special and loved daughter and sister, Azaria," Ms Morris said.
"I am so sorry for your loss. Time does not remove the pain and sadness of the death of a child."
The emotion from the courtroom spilled outside as Lindy and Michael fronted the media to a round of applause.
Lindy, who spent three years in jail after being wrongly convicted of Azaria murder in 1982, spoke only briefly on Tuesday, saying the family was "relieved and delighted". She was scheduled to appear on A Current Affair on Tuesday night.
From the day Azaria disappeared Lindy maintained she had been take by a dingo. On Tuesday she said the finding dispelled any lingering doubts about the dangers dingoes posed to humans.
"We live in a beautiful country, but it is dangerous and we would ask all Australians to be aware of this and take appropriate precautions and not wait for anyone else to do it for them," she said.
Michael spoke eloquently as he described the "terrifying battle" fought by his family over more than three decades.
He said the decision would go some way to healing the emotional wounds and put Azaria's spirit to rest.
"I cannot express strongly enough how important it is to pursue a just cause even when it seems to be a mission impossible," he said.
"But truth must be on your side."
He described Ms Morris as "courageous and independent", and said she had spoken "for the dead on behalf of the living".
"We have fought a justice system that led one senior judicial officer working in the Territory for a short time, to tell me after the last inquest, 'don't try and get a fourth inquest, you will never get justice in a Northern Territory jurisdiction'," he said.
The media then followed the family to the Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages as they collected copies of the revised death certificate.
- August 17, 1980: Nine-week-old Azaria Chamberlain disappears from a tent an Uluru campsite.
- February 20, 1981: First coroner's inquest finds a dingo killed Azaria, but someone unknown had later interfered with her clothes.
- September 1981: Second inquest finds Azaria's throat had been cut. Based on this and other findings, Azaria's parents Michael and Lindy Chamberlain are charged with murder.
- October 29, 1982: Mrs Chamberlain convicted of murdering Azaria and sentenced to life in prison. Mr Chamberlain convicted as an accessory after the fact and handed a suspended sentence. Subsequent appeals fail.
- February 7, 1986: Mrs Chamberlain is released from prison on remission.
- June 2, 1987: A Royal Commission recommends clearing the Chamberlains of all guilt.
- September 15, 1988: NT Court of Criminal Appeal overturns all convictions. The Chamberlains are declared innocent.
- December 13, 1995: Third coronial inquest fails to establish a cause of death, resulting in an open finding.
- December, 2011: Fourth inquest into Azaria's death announced.
- June 12, 2012: Coroner Elizabeth Morris finds a dingo was responsible for Azaria's death.